To seal or not to seal?
Should I use a grout sealer? Should I add Scotch Guard to my carpets after cleaning? This is the question we get on almost every tile and carpet cleaning job we do. The answer is, it depends. Some grouts will benefit from a sealer more than others. Some carpet will benefit from protectors more than others. The reason for both are very similar even though the textiles are very different.
It really has to do with the absorbency of the textile. Sanded grout is much more porous than unsanded grout and should be sealed unless the grout was mixed with a grout additive. Grout additives are basically sealers built in to the grout. This helps it resist staining along with other benefits which include better bonding as well as better color uniformity. These additives are produced by many different manufactures and can be found in tile shops and home centers everywhere.
We at Pristine Tile & Carpet Cleaning use grout additives in all of our grout mixes as we feel it delivers the best end results for our customers. If your unsure if your grout was installed with a additive, you can still apply a sealer. It won’t hurt it, it just won’t absorb into the grout as well and could be a waste of money. The piece of mind knowing it’s protected outweighs the possibility of permanent staining of unprotected grout.
Unsanded grout is is le
ss porous than sanded grout and will absorb less of the sealer. Epoxy grout is by far the least absorbent of the grouts and is not very common in the residential market. Carpet is the same as grout in the sense that different fiber types absorb more that others. For instance an olefin berber carpet will not absorb as much as nylon carpet. Some of the higher end carpets such as Stainmaster come with a protection from the factory and should be reapplied periodically.
How often do I need to seal?
Quality grout sealers can last many years, some claim 15 or 20 years. This really depends on the type of sealer and the traffic in your home as well as your cleaning habits. We strongly advise not to use harsh chemicals such as bleach or acids to clean. They will damage the grout as well as the sealer and even remove color. Always use neutral cleaners that do not leave residue that can cause rapid re-soiling.
Myth of sealers
Okay here is the big let down, sorry folks. Grout sealers and Scotchguard protector will not keep your floors or carpet from getting dirty! Foot traffic, dirty mop water, pets and children coming in and out will eventually take their toll and you will have to clean it. The good news is that the sealers will provide a protective barrier to prevent permanent staining and make cleaning easier. The trick to keep your grout or carpet from becoming permanently stained is to clean up the spill as soon as possible.
Ok, so you just had Pristine Tile & Carpet Cleaning out to professionally clean your tile & grout or perhaps you opted for the full shower re-grout and restoration, either way, the first question we ALWAYS get asked is what should I use to clean it and keep it looking good? or how long will my new grout or caulk last? At this point our customer usually opens the closet to show me what they have been using and let me tell you, it’s not good! Most of those chemicals that line the grocery store shelves are not good for your home or your health.
Just because a label says “tub and tile cleaner” or “carpet cleaner” does not mean it is good, many have bleach or other harsh chemicals. The manufactures could care less if you are damaging your grout or your health, they want your money, period. Then our customers say “but Pete nothing but bleach will get it clean” although it may seem to clean well, it is only temporary. Bleach or other acidic products are slowly etching, and opening the pores of the grout making it more porous and therefore will grow mold and mildew faster and faster with each cleaning, and ultimately leave you with damaged shallow grout lines or separated caulk, resulting in leaks.
The problem with chemicals in the home doesn’t end with the just the tile & grout cleaners, it is the glass cleaners, carpet cleaners, furniture polish, kitchen cleaners, hardwood floor cleaners, and the list goes on and on, there is just nothing good about these cleaners folks. So what should you use? is the question of the day. Well I am going to introduce you to a company that is making a big impact on how people are cleaning their homes…Norwex!
A couple of years ago I had the honor of meeting one of the greatest people I’ll ever know! Leona Vangee, who is a Norwex team coordinator.
Leona attended the 6:3 networking group in Fredericksburg which I am currently the president of. When she started talking about her products which include micro fiber cloths that can clean glass with no streaks using only water, I was like yeah right ok, whatever. After several demonstrations, I said okay, now you have my attention. My tight butt finally broke down and bought some cloths, and they are AWESOME! But it doesn’t stop there, Norwex has a whole line of cleaning products that are safe to use, good for the environment, and clean effectively. Most importantly they will not damage the textiles in your home that you paid dearly for. They have a variety of great products including dusting mits, toilet bowl brushes (that don’t get nasty), floor care systems, flexible pole dusters and so much more.
So lets go back to your new freshly installed grout and caulk in that shower. When we install grout we mix it with an acrylic additive that helps it to bond to the tile, it also add strength as well as stain resistance and water resistance, eliminating the need for a sealer. We also professionally prepare the corners and edges for the best possible adhesion of the new caulk. These techniques along with proper cleaning will greatly extend the life of your grout and caulk. So what is proper cleaning? It’s gentle cleaning agents, gentle cleaning cloths, and a gentle cleaning hand. If you scrub the caulk hard enough it will separate from the wall tile or tub, water will seep behind, turn black, then need to be replaced. Yes, believe it or not, there is such a thing as over cleaning and people that obsess about trying to keep their shower looking brand new are often the ones with problems.
I’m proud to endorse Norwex products, it’s what we are using in our home for everyday cleaning. If you would like to know more about Norwex, how to purchase, or even host a gathering to share these awesome products with your friends then you must contact Leona, she is the one that can really show you how to clean properly!
Carpet Cleaner Specialties
Like any industry, carpet cleaners come in many different levels of service and specialties. Some companies focus on just carpet cleaning while others may have strong specialties such as water damage restoration, fine rug cleaning, tile & grout cleaning, hardwood floor cleaning, furniture and upholstery and so forth. It is always a good idea to seek out the company that focuses on the specialty that you may be looking for to ensure the best possible out come.For example, my company has a strong focus on carpet cleaning but we are also the leader in tile & grout cleaning, and shower re-grouts in Fredericksburg, Stafford and Spotsylvania Virginia, however, we would not touch a water damage or hardwood floor job because we just are not properly set up for that.
Not all carpet cleaners are created equal
Like all industries, carpet cleaners come in a wide variety. Some are big national companies, some may have a few trucks, some are 1 truck owner operators, some are scammers and then there are the ones working out of their trunk with a rug doctor. All these different scenarios have good points and bad points.
Lets take a closer look at each of these different scenarios and see how they differ.
1. The big national franchises such as Stanley Steamer, Chemdry, Coit – the services and pricing these companies offer can vary greatly from place to place. The high advertising budgets will increase the cost as well as pressured up sells. They also have a higher rate of employee turnover making this option a gamble…it can be a great experience or a horrible one. On the up side, these larger multi-truck operations are usually prepared to provide same day service.
2. The local medium sized business – These companies are generally a good bet, they are not so big that they cannot keep a handle on their customer service, they often have a few trucks for quick service and they usually invest in good training for their techs. On the down side they do have some overhead such as shops, training and employee benefits making it a little more expensive, but you get what you pay for!
3. The Owner Operator – This is the category my company falls under, and is great choice for many reasons. Not many techs from larger companies will care enough to provide the level of service that the owner of a company will. Many owner operators use superior truck mounted equipment and have far more cleaning experience than most techs just in it for the paycheck. Their overhead is generally lower making it affordable as well. The downside is they do become busy in the height of the season, and with only one truck it can be difficult to get an emergency appointment. The owner operator is the best option for the planners looking for the best of both worlds….quality & price.
4. The lowball hack – This is one to watch out for. Often they use inferior equipment that is no better than what anyone can rent in a grocery store, they most likely are uninsured and untrained, they cut corners in the products they use (if they use any) Be very wary of companies with unusually low prices, unlettered trucks, no websites or reviews, advertise with flyers on utility poles ect… Most of the people who use these guys are renters who don’t care, they just want any receipt they can turn into their landlord upon move out.
5. Scam companies – This is the one that bothers me the most! These are the companies that have no intention of cleaning your carpet for the advertised price. It is called bait and switch, they advertise cleaning at truly unbelievable low prices and then change them once in your home, for sometimes huge amounts. These folks are high pressure and often prey on the elderly…. in my book, they belong in jail! This bait and switch news clip will make you sick!
It is always a good idea check out a companies online reputation before you hire them, make sure they have many good ratings not just one or two.
Installing a tile backsplash
Pristine Tile & Grout Restoration specializes in cleaning tile, grout, carpet and concrete however we occasionally stray off the beaten path for some of our regular customers. In this case we installed a tile backsplash to add a nice touch to their kitchen.
After years of being bombarded with water, cleaning agents, and scrubbing, your grout may have had all it can take. Grouting a shower or bathtub surround is actually quite a bit of work. All the old grout and caulk must be removed before the new grout and caulk can be replaced. We often come across jobs that were not prepared correctly and the new grout just fails. New grout cannot be floated or skimmed over old grout, it will just flake off in no time. However, we see this all the time, especially in today’s real estate market. Skim coating is common in properties for sale. It’s real hard to sell a house that has an ugly black shower, a quick skim and a bead of caulk to cover up all that black stuff might just be enough to pass it off to an unsuspecting buyer.
How to regrout a shower properly
Preparing the surface
This picture shows a properly prepared surface for the new grout. We used various grout saws, utility knives and lots of elbow grease to remove all the old grout and caulk. Many contractors or even homeowners use electric dremel type tools to do this, we prefer hand tools to reduce any risk of chipping a tile. It’s always best practice to wear safety goggles during this procedure. After all the grout and caulk is removed give the shower a good vacuum and wipe down with a damp grout sponge. If the tile had any build up of calcium or soap scum that would be cleaned real good before the grout removal, so excess water would not get between the tiles. The preparation of the shower is the most tedious and time consuming of the job, this next part goes much quicker but does require some skill level.
Installing the new grout
Floating grout can be a bit tricky for the newbie. Newly mixed grout is just a little thicker than pancake batter, but starts getting thicker and harder to spread as it starts to set up. That can be a problem for someone that does not have the speed of a pro. It’s important to never add water to the grout after it’s initial mixing, that will ruin it.
After working the grout into all the joints, It’s important to get as much of the excess grout off the tile by placing the float on an angle and wiping across the tile diagonally, as shown.
After the grout has been floated onto the walls, it is then wiped clean with a grout sponge. Sponging also helps even out all he grout lines for a nice even professional look. Now this is the important part, don’t over work the grout with too much water in the sponge or re wipe areas already wiped. Just wipe it once, and leave it. The tiles will haze over and will buff off easily with a clean white terry cloth towel in about 2 hours. While buffing the tile it’s advisable to wear a respirator, the fine dust produced is not good for you to breath.
The final icing on the cake is the caulk, I like to caulk around the base of the shower pan and up the corners as well. Most of the unsanded grouts found today have polymers in the grout and don’t need sealing. I do however recommend sealing sanded grout, usually found on floors.
Small spots of missing grout
The first picture shows a half inch of missing grout, more than enough to allow water to seep in and cause big problems.
This next picture shows a small piece of missing grout directly above the soap dish, After a short period of time the soap dish will be history. It is common to see these problems in the lower front corner of the shower, the area that takes the direct water assault every day.
The third photo shows how the caulk has separated from the tub, once this happens water gets trapped behind the caulk causing it to turn black from the inside out. This also creates the problem of the water running along the lip of the tub, behind the caulk and tile, finding its way to the floor outside the shower, ultimately causing floor damage as well.
Inspect your grout and caulk periodically
It is a great idea to inspect all your tile work from time to time as most of these minor problems can be fixed easily and inexpensively, but putting it off will surely result in thousands of dollars in repairs.
What causes these problems?
There are many reasons grout and caulk fail, the main reason is poor installation. Grout is a cement based product that has no elasticity at all, so if there is any movement in the wall, floor, or tub, the grout will crack for sure. It is common for the grout to crack along the corners and edges after installation, when this happens we usually caulk those areas. Caulk has the elastic properties needed to handle the expansion and contraction that happens in all homes. Just filling a bathtub can be enough weight to compromise the joints between the tile and the tub if the subfloor, floor joists or tub installation does not meet code requirements.
Other common reasons for failure is improper mixing of the grout, over working the grout with too much water, or not preparing the surfaces for grout and caulk. Caulk will not stick properly to surfaces that have moisture, soap scum, body oils, mold, mildew ect…
These additional reasons still fall under the improper installation category. The only reason that doesn’t fall under that category is faulty products. Bad grout and caulk is not common, but we do come across it from time to time. Just like grocery shopping, always check the dates on the product, I have come across many out of date products in the home centers across the Fredericksburg area. Never use grout or caulk that has been opened or laying around the garage for a long time. These products are inexpensive and it is definitely worth buying fresh sealed product for every job.
The last two photos show the same tub and shower I worked on, in Stafford County Virginia last week. Both were minor repairs that took less than an hour, and will save this rental property from big repairs and even worse…down time.
Cleaning the dryer vents, why must we do this?
Dryer vent cleaning is probably the most important thing that needs to be done around the house every year or so, depending on use. It may be a good idea to mark your calendar with this task, along with other periodical tasks such as changing furnace filters or water filters.
To Prevent Fires
The most obvious reason is to prevent fires. Dryers with excessive lint buildup are one of the most common causes of house fires. When the dryer vent gets clogged it puts more strain on the dryer causing it to run hotter making it more likely for that fine lint to catch on fire.
prevent long dry times
If you notice that your laundry is taking longer to dry than it used to, that is an indication that air flow is being compromised, drying time can be reduced by a staggering amount of time. How do I know this? When my wife told me we needed a new dryer because the jeans were taking 2 cycles (140 minutes to dry) I knew it was time for a cleaning, to protect my wallet… I have been accused of being a tight wad more than once.
After I thoroughly cleaned the vent and the dryer, the next load of jeans took less than 40 minutes to dry, that is a difference of 100 minutes or 250% faster.
Reduce the amount of energy usage
The second complaint my wife had for today, was that our house was very dusty despite the fact that she dusts regularly( I get this all the time from my customers). Well… she was right! (and usually is). After close inspection I did find that the dryer connection was leaking, I am betting the strain from the reduced airflow might have caused this. After securing the vent and taping all seams with duct tape, we have noticed much less dust, leading to less sneezing and allergy attacks.
Who cleans dryer vents?
Dryer vent cleaning can be a little tricky, but can be done ambitious home owners. They do sell dryer vent cleaning kits in the home centers that can be used with a cordless drill, a shop-vac with a good filter should also be on hand. Wearing a face mask or respirator for this project is a must as very fine particles will be circulating around your face. It is important to pull the dryer out and clean from both sides making certain it is clear all the way through. All connections must be re-secured well.
For the less ambtious
Dryer vent cleaning is also done by some carpet and tile cleaning companies, duct cleaning companies or handymen. A good time to have this done is while your carpets or floors are being cleaned, it can be less expensive, if a special trip is not needed for small jobs like this.
Thanks for reading!
Pristine Tile & Grout Restoration in Fredericksburg Va. He is a master carpet cleaner as well as the leading expert in tile care in the greater Fredericksburg area. You can find out more at Prisitinepete.com or follow Pete on facebook.
How we do it:
There are actually 4 components working together in harmony that allow us to achieve these superior cleaning results.
Emulsifier – We use a non toxic, environment friendly spray that is applied to the tile & grout floor to quickly loosen up the soil.
High Pressure – Our advanced patented equipment produces water pressure that can be adjusted between 200 and 1500 psi to penetrate even the toughest areas!
Heat – Our powerful truck mounted steam cleaner is capable of maintaining temperatures over 230 degrees throughout the cleaning process.
Vacuum – Our Vacuum process surgically lifts the soil and dirty water off your floor.
Pristine Tile & Carpet Cleaning
632 Forbes St
Fredericksburg, Va 22405